Contemporary

Evie Undercover By Liz Harris

Monday, January 28, 2013

EVIE UNDERCOVER is a romantic comedy, set partly in London and partly in Umbria, Italy.

This isn't the first novel that I've set in Umbria, and I'm sure that it won't be the last. I go regularly to the area and love it. It lies just north of the middle of Italy. I’m afraid geographical co-ordinates are not my strong point! I’ve changed some of the place names, but not the names of Perugia or of Todi. A few years ago, a US magazine voted Todi to be the most perfectly placed medieval hilltop town in Italy, and it well deserves that accolade. There are a number of small Roman towns in the area around Todi, and the fictional Massa Piccola is based on them. Massa means mountain, and piccola means small.

Lovely though Umbria is, it is to neighbouring Tuscany that the British tourists flock. This means that Umbria is relatively unspoiled by tourism. You can wander through lovely medieval towns and not see a single café offering English Breakfasts or Fish 'n Chips. It also means that a knowledge of English isn't widespread, and anyone buying a house there would need help with the language if they didn't speak it. This will change, though, as increasingly Americans and Brits are buying houses in Umbria, and Italians in the area are starting to learn English in a serious way, but their ability to speak English is still in the future.

To come back to EVIE UNDERCOVER. For me, there are three very important ingredients in a rom com – a hero; a lively, feisty heroine, and a romantic setting. Make that four ingredients – there should be a story that holds the attention, too.

Libel lawyer, Tom Hadleigh, is definitely a hero to die for. He’s drop-dead gorgeous and he’s got a brilliant sense of humour. Personally, I think a sense of humour is one of the most sexy characteristics a man can have. And the 14th century house that Tom bought on a whim in Umbria, Italy, shows that he’s a man with romance in his heart. But of course, he may not know this. At least, not yet.

Enter Evie Shaw, part Italian, part English, the newest member on the staff of gossip magazine, Pure Dirt. Evie is not only lively and feisty, but also highly enterprising. She’s been given a mission by her editor, and failure isn’t in her book! She sees this as a necessary first step towards making her dream of being a journalist come true, and she’ll do whatever it takes to achieve her goal. Or so she thinks.

As for a romantic setting, well, you couldn’t do much better than Umbria, Umbria comprises miles of stunning scenery, interspersed with small Roman towns that sit on the top of the hills. It lies in the heart of a land famed for its sunshine olives, wine, music and love.

And we mustn’t forget the pasta! And now we come to the story. The restoration of Tom’s Umbrian house is in the final stages, and he’s hoping to spend the month of August there. In order to be able to do that, he must order some furniture as a matter of urgency.

Alas, though, Tom has a little problem: he can’t speak a word of Italian; his Italian surveyor can’t speak a word of English, and his regular interpreter isn’t available to accompany him.

Aha, so that’s where Evie comes in, I can hear you saying. And you’re correct. Through the manipulation of her devious editor, Evie, fluent in Italian, is sent to work for Tom as an interpreter. For Tom, his house will be his sole focus for their week in Italy. Unfortunately for Tom, Evie has a different focus – namely, the exposé she must write about Tom or lose her only offer of a magazine job after months of searching.

But the path for the investigative journalist is seldom smooth, as Evie is about to find out, and it certainly never is when the subject in hand is as luscious as Tom, nor when the sleek Italian surveyor, Eduardo di Montefiori, has a sister as beautiful as Gabriela.

Evie and Tom have one week in Italy together. It isn’t long. How in that short time can Evie possibly find out what she needs to know?

To come back to real life, you now know that I think Umbria is one of the most romantic of places. What about you? I’d love to learn of the places that you find really romantic. Do let me know which they are. Two lucky readers who comment on this, or on anything else on my blog, will be randomly selected to win an ebook copy of EVIE UNDERCOVER. Good luck!